The coronavirus can be eliminated from the island of Ireland if politicians North and South 'put aside their political totems' and work together, according to public health expert Dr Gabriel Scally.
A further 52 coronavirus-related deaths were announced in the Republic this alongside 2,371 new cases.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland reported 12 more deaths this afternoon, alongside 865 more cases.
On The Hard Shoulder this evening, Dr Scally, the former Director of Public Health for Belfast and Professor of Public Health at University of Bristol said there are “plenty of examples” of countries around the world using their island status to tackle the virus.
“There is no doubt about it,” he said. “Ireland could do this. If we really wanted to save lives and keep the disease at bay, we could do it.”
He said the negotiations between Dublin and Stormont wouldn't be easy but noted that, “the North is suffering just the same with death and destruction.”
“There is no reason why it can’t happen,” he said. “The only reason why it doesn’t happen is because politicians won’t get together and discuss it.
“We know that there isn’t great feeling between the two jurisdictions but that is what politicians are there to sort out.
“After all, they managed to sort out, via the Good Friday Agreement, the Troubles in the North and we have now lost more people from COVID-19 on this island than in the Troubles.
“They managed to get Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley sitting together in Stormont. It is not beyond the wit of man and woman to make this happen if they wanted to.”
Dr Scally said there is “huge support in the North for keeping this virus at bay and keeping it out.”
“I understand people have their political totems but these are totems that have been manufactured by politicians – and I would appeal to them to lay them aside,” he said.
“They can pick up their prejudices and their ingrained opposition to things whenever they want when this is over but let’s get this under control.
"I have said this before, if this were pig, sheep or cattle, it would be all sorted. There wouldn’t be the slightest problem and it would be done. It is up to the politicians to do it.”
He said the two jurisdictions “missed the real opportunity last summer” to put an all-island approach in place, noting, “wouldn’t we be living a different life now if we have only done that.”
He was speaking after the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that there is now “some evidence” the UK variant of the virus may be more deadly than the original.
He said the rise in different variants around the world are “enormously worrisome” and make the case for responding as an island all the stronger.
“Some of us knew this was coming because it has been apparent for a little while now that younger people were getting affected much more seriously than previously and the fact there is an increased mortality from these variants is not surprising,” he said.
“The real worry is that one of these variants will pop up, it might be the Brazil one, we don’t know, and it will nullify, if not completely at least partially nullify the effects of vaccination – and that will be disastrous.
“So, for a whole string of reasons, I think it is a good idea to put on these controls.”
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